The Gylly Beach Cafe

Four hours in the car, one hour queuing for a coffee in the (no doubt) Covid enriched atmosphere of a dangerously overcrowded service station and half a pound of chocolate later and we are in lovely Cornwall.  

The Family Unit is tired, overworked and desperate for a break, and whilst the pandemic is a terrible thing, a few small upticks of good have come out of this.  Like, reminding yourself that the UK is a fab place to have a holiday. If you think this, you’ll be in good company – according to the Office of National Statistics, overseas residents made 7.8 million visits to the UK in the three months to March 2019 alone.

So, what’s Cornwall got to recommend it apart from beautiful scenery, great beaches, art galleries, the Maritime museum, outdoor activities, surfing, amazing gardens, historical sites…?  

If these don’t do it for you, then how about food? All over Cornwall, you can find great places to eat, with locally sourced produce often high on the menu.

One fortunate survivor of the lockdown is the Gylly Beach Cafe, in Falmouth.  This sits at the entrance to Gyllyngvase Beach with unrivalled sea views.  The clientele are a mixed bunch of beach goers, locals and visitors alike.  Food is fresh, looks and tastes good and is served, with a smile, by the waiting staff.

At lunchtime today, it was packed (in a responsibly socially distanced way).

A great place to drink coffee, eat cake and gaze at the sea.

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Nostromo

66A14124-CB15-4769-B468-CFBD292B3F45If you’re looking for a meaty tome, with a vast army of finely drawn characters, political intrigue, a haul of silver ingots, all topped off with a revolution, then take a look at the magnificent Nostromo.

Written in 1904, and set in the fictional Latin American country of Costaguana, Joseph Conrad pulls off an amazing feat of story telling, developed from the details of a real life case of silver piracy in the Gulf of Mexico.

The book details the story of an arrangement between the government and the Gould family which allows the family to mine silver in, and around, the fictional coastal town of Sulaco.  The presence of the silver affects the town, it’s residents and even the world outside Costaguana.

Nostromo is a key player in the story. He starts out as a penniless Genoan sailor, but his dependability, courage and need for recognition lead him to move both up in the world (“the Capataz”) and down again (as the silver thief).

However, for me, the starring role in the book, is the silver.

Nostromo protects, then ultimately steals it. Gould (the mine administrator) is obsessed by it. Martin Decoud (a foppish, Europhile journalist) uses it as a potential lever for the establishment of a new republic, but then fills his pockets with ingots when he decides to drown himself. Sotillo nearly goes mad dredging the harbour for it and Hernandez dies incidentally, tortured by Sotillo in his search.

The women of the novel are well developed characters , but they are passive as far as the plot is concerned. Mrs Gould has no influence over her husband’s decisions or actions and he seems oblivious to her existence. Antonia Avellenos exhibits ‘advanced ideas’ but remains a nurse to her father.  The old Italian inn keeper’s wife holds no sway over her Republican spouse but her voice echos on in Nostromo’s thoughts after her death.

And what of Costaguana, the fictional country?  The heat, the sea, drawn from life?   

Having spent time in modern day sleepy Mexican towns, watched the sun come up over Cartagena (and much more) I can say hand on heart, he’s nailed it.

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Malice Aforethought

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There’s no time like the present to read the books on your bucket list, right?

Wrong actually, now’s the time to indulge in stuff that makes you happy or keeps you entertained.  I’ve read lots of articles recently that say ‘… read Ulysses…’ Frankly, after three or four abortive attempts on this I would say ‘… don’t read Ulysses…’.

Instead, I’m recommending Frances Iles’ ground breaking Malice Aforethought.

Frances Iles was a pen name of Anthony Berkeley Cox (1893 – 1971), who as Anthony Berkeley churned out a load of detective novels featuring his rather ghastly amateur sleuth, Roger Sheringham. Sheringham always feels like a poor imitation of Dorothy L Sayers’ urbane Lord Peter Wimsey, but the plot lines often have interesting premises; The Silk Stocking Murders (1928) sees a serial killer on the loose (more about this one later) and The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929) sees a crime club challenged to present multiple solutions to a single murder.

But in 1931 (as Isles), Berkeley upped his game, improved his clunky syntax and produced a page turning corker in Malice Aforethought. The book was revolutionary, announcing in the first sentence who the murderer was:

It was not until several weeks after he had decided to murder his wife that Dr. Bickleigh took any active steps in the matter.

The reader follows the action from the murderer’s point of view, seeing what he sees and hearing his thoughts.  As Colin Dexter notes ‘…in front of our eyes the ‘detective story’ is metamorphosing into the ‘crime novel’…’

Iles keeps up the pace as he unpacks the killer’s mind and charts his inexorable journey into dark places and, in spite of giving away the identity of the murderer on page one, he still manages to produce a fabulous twist to the tale in the closing pages.

Read it and enjoy.  Ulysses will still be there tomorrow.

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Life in the time of Coronavirus

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Being under siege from a deadly and invisible killer is unsettling. Add in the nuclear winter of a massive economic shock and the world starts to feel a very frightening place indeed.  Just a few weeks ago, the UK had record levels of employment and had finally shaken off political stagnation with the election of a majority Conservative government.

Now we sit, bunkered in our homes, watching our amazing NHS grapple with the COVID-19 monster and praying for our families, friends and complete strangers.

Ever on the watch for something positive in all this horror, no matter how small, I have decided to use the time I would have used in commuting (by car), differently and I now go out for a daily dose of exercise at 06:20am.

On the face of it, not the most popular time of day for a walk, but there is literally no one about, except the odd dog walker.

And it’s beautiful.

The air seems cleaner, the birds are singing their hearts out and Nature seems totally oblivious to the woes of man.

It’s a calm start to the day.

Wherever you are. Stay safe. Keep well.

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First Lambs

9EA60982-05EC-40B7-B733-FD6A50DAB3B9Even though the sky’s a persistent gloomy grey and the rain just keeps on coming, Spring is evident everywhere in our part of Somerset.  The trees have their first, delicate greenery and daffodils sit beneath many of them in billowy, yellow crowds.

This morning, there was the a hint of coming warmer weather when the clouds briefly cleared and the rain stopped.

The first lambs are starting to appear now.  Seeing these tiny, vulnerable creatures braving the elements hours after birth is humbling and it’s amazing to think that in just a few weeks, they’ll be a boisterous handful for their stoic mothers.

All of this is a world away from economic shocks, Coronavirus and the US elections.

Long may it continue that way. It’s a magical time of year.

[I took the photo this morning]

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Fathers and Sons

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Russian literature, like blue Stilton cheese, is something of an acquired taste.  Defeated by War and Peace, but not by Crime and Punishment, my literary tasting tour has ended with a more digestible work by Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev: Fathers and Sons.

Richard Freeborn’s translation for the Oxford World Classics series, has been ‘modernised’, which made it feel a bit odd in places, especially if you compare this version with the language used in ‘typical’ examples of Victorian writing. However, this edition has Turgenev’s initial plot and character outlines for the novel and they provide a fascinating insight into his thought processes around plot and character development.

Without doubt, the ‘nihilist’ Bazarov, dominates the book.  His personality, behaviour and dabbling in scientific pursuits make him, the main focus of the novel. And whilst there are some conventional set pieces (Arkady’s betrothal to Katya), the characters are strongly defined and Turgenev has some fun, putting them in the same room and seeing what happens.  Like magnets, they attract or repel, but responses are rarely lukewarm; Pavel Petrovich Kirsanov hates Bazarov and ultimately challenges him to a duel.  Bazarov’s parents adore him, but he treats them with indifferent shabbiness.

The women all demonstrate strength of character in some way, from exercising  intellectual curiosity about science (Kukshina), having a child out of wedlock (Fenechka) or managing a household and estate alone (Odintsova).  The brothers Kirsanov, represent both the historically settled order of things and the landowners attempts to respond carefully to changes in Russian society.  Bazarov and his views are a direct challenge to long established practises and whilst he advocates destruction, he is ultimately a victim, dying as a result of his own actions and carelessness.

хорошее чтение

(a good read)

 

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Research, Question,Verify, Write.

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I mentioned in my last post that I’d signed up to do some journalism training.  Four weeks in, and I’ve learnt a lot.

First up, this is hard work and requires some concentrated effort.  I’ve done three interviews and all required some serious background information trawling, even before I could start planning the interview structure, questions and what the potential story output might look like.  Fortunately, the interviews were not on time sensitive issues i.e. fast moving news events, otherwise I would be heading for a journalistic sacking.

Secondly, you need to have a story look, feel and shape in mind, before you start on the questions.  Obvious, really, but not always as easy as it sounds, especially when you have interviewees that have their own agenda, or go off at a tangent.

Thirdly, my speed handwriting is bad. Very bad.  Which is not good when you are trying to write up an article and you want to include a quote.  “… and then the goat laughed”.  What goat? Who laughed? Really??

Fourthly, you can’t blag this.  You need to be well informed on the subject matter, be quick witted enough to follow up any new avenues for questioning as they present themselves and try and keep to any pre-arranged time schedule.

Finally, when you’ve done all this and written up the story, you need to try and cross check anything you’ve been told, to verify the facts and that doesn’t mean a quick flick through Wikipedia.

All in all, it’s been a good experience and hopefully, one I’ll get to repeat.

 

 

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A New Challenge

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In my household, where things like emptying the bins and stacking the dishwasher are luxuries (because everyone is so time poor), you’d have to be a plank to go and commit yourself to a big higher education project on top of everything else.

Well, call me Plank. I’ve just signed up to train to be a journalist and I’m already out there with a shiny new notebook, pointy pencil and three interviews booked.

Exciting. Frightening. Fun… and hard work. Especially for someone who never knocks out more than 350 words a time.

So far, I’ve spent my evenings immersed in local issues, election results and trying to pull together coherent interview plans.  I thought journalists spent all their time down the pub.

Sadly, all I’ve got is large quantities of non-alcoholic gin and tonic, but anything’s better than nothing.

Here’s to the ladies and gents of the press.

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The Return

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It’s nice to go away, but good to come back again.  Having had a great holiday in the Dominican Republic, we are now chez nous once more.

Our band of ginger felines appear to have forgiven us for leaving them, fully fed, in their own home, with a cat sitter and the washing machine is preparing for the worst.

Our garden has become a poster-plot for Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted castle; the lawn is 6 inches long, there are squash plants growing over the garden furniture and there are beans everywhere.

Time to get to work.

I always feel sorry for electrical equipment that comes to live with us.  I’ve blown up more lawn mowers than I care to remember and my husband recently went through three (or was it four?) sets of hedge trimmers in one afternoon. So, not good. This time the lawn mower had a rest every ten minutes, but managed to cut the whole lawn. Tick.

Beans tidied, squash cut back and four loads of washing done. Tick, tick, tick.

Still more to go, but it’s going in the right direction.

What else can you do at 3am, when you can’t sleep?  Spanish homework, apparently, as recommended by the Offspring, who finds jet lag difficult to sort out.

It’s good to be back.

Editor’s note

Stock photo, as I was so desperate to start sorting the garden out, I forgot to take a picture of what it looked like ‘out there’.

 

 

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The Benefits of Writing

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It’s now over six years since I first put finger to keyboard and started writing.

Originally conceived as a therapeutic project, with no particular plan in mind, this blog has taken on a life of it’s own and, whilst it might not entertain the reader much, the writer has benefitted considerably.

How has it helped?

Writing, even bad writing, is a creative process which requires the author to take time out from other activities (work, home life and other daily distractions) and think. This in itself is a good thing.  It’s even better, with a cat on your lap.

The process of crafting an article, post or essay, requires words, sentences and paragraphs to be structured in such a way that the reader can clearly understand the intended meaning of those constructs.

Spelling mistakes are distracting for the reader and grammatical errors can significantly alter the meaning of the text, so it’s important to get these right.

The rise of social media has led, in the main, to a decline in the online human’s attention span.  Therefore, blog posts benefit from tight editing.

All of the above help to produce better quality written output and have ancillary benefits in other areas where writing skills are required e.g. when producing commentaries and written reports in a work environment.

So, if you’re at a lose end, want to share a story or exercise your ‘writing muscles’, pick up a keyboard and start typing.

You won’t regret it.

 

 

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